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A quick glance at Thus Defiled's album and song titles makes it clear they're a black metal band. This album's cover, though, hints at a gothic, more commercially friendly approach. Thankfully, this is not at all present in the music of Daemonspawn. This is black metal, but what made me enjoy this album so much were the more old fashioned metal sensibilities displayed by this four-piece. They're not afraid to have a grand melodic passage, shredding solo or mid-paced thrash riff in what is undeniably a black metal album, and the songs are all the better for it.
Thus Defiled's vocals, though, certainly are performed in the black metal vein. Mostly raspy and mid-pitched, they're good if not spectacular, with the occasional whisper or low booming growl used for a bit of variety. Lyrically, the topics covered include the layers of Hell and raping dreams (yes, raping dreams) and although the layering on some vocal lines adds emphasis, the lyrics are mostly forgettable.
However, their instrumentation is where Thus Defiled excel. The bass guitar, admittedly, is very much under the radar, but the drums complement the music well. At times they're mid-paced, but more often they're quick, either in the form of bouncy thrash-like rhythms or blastbeats.
The guitars are the best part of the album - both the rhythm playing and the lead parts. Many riffs retain a thrashy edge, but more traditionally light-speed extreme metal riffs are also on display, occasionally featuring great interplay between the two guitars. Solos range from slow and melodic to frantic and wild. Putting it all together, the production leans more towards a modern polish than a primitive feel, but still retains a raw feeling. The key for me is that the rhythm and especially lead guitar tones are strong and very clear.
Obviously, Thus Defiled's thrash influences are clearly displayed on the Slayer cover Black Magic. Its solo-heavy structure and expanded intro make it feel as though it belongs on the album. The other short tracks also showcase the best thrash riffs of the album, with examples including riffs appearing in "Blackreign (Crown of Horns)" and "Daemonwielder" just before the minute mark of each song. Some of the slower power-chord riffs and guitar harmonies here even sound like they are straight out of a heavy metal album, with one section in the middle of "Dreamraper" evolving from a traditional metal guitar melody into frenetic soloing, with the rhythm section displaying a similar contrast in intensity.
This knack for melody is taken a step further in the album's lengthiest tracks, where at times the lead guitar takes over, playing grand melodic passages over booming, colossal rhythms. It's a kind of atmosphere that is perhaps similar to the feeling generated in some parts of Immortal's At the Heart of Winter, a pleasant combination of extremity and melody that is rarely this well executed in extreme metal. This atmosphere sets the longer songs apart from the short ones on the album, even if they do all, except for the creepy intro, adopt the same general style. My favourite three songs on the album, then, are "...And They Shall Fear the Night", "Astaroth (The Art of Balance in Darkness)" and "Beyond the Seventh Circle of Fire", as it's in these epic compositions that Thus Defiled's unique identity really shines through.
Additionally, it's worth noting that this is Thus Defiled's best work as a band. Their work in the '90s was at times primitive, and not in a good way, whilst Weeping Holocaust Tears was very good but not quite as consistent as Daemonspawn. With its clear and heavy production, long lead guitar passages and clear thrash metal influence, Thus Defiled's Daemonspawn is perhaps not for every black metal fan. It is, however, a bloody great album and deserves considerably more exposure and praise than it has received.